If you’ve ever stopped into O’Kanes Pub at McMenamins Old St. Francis School, were you aware you were basking in the glow of Pacific Northwest artistic greatness? Well, you were – as long as you sat beside one of two huge Povey Brothers stained glass windows, that is.
The Povey Brothers Studio was founded in 1893 by David Lincoln Povey. His brother John was the main craftsman and did the glazing and leading, while David did the design and artwork. Their brother George later joined the company as its accountant and business manager, and two Povey sisters also worked for the company. It was truly a family-run business.
The brothers imported their glass from Europe, but designed and constructed their windows in their offices at 408 NW 5th Ave. in downtown Portland, in a building that is today part of the New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District.
The Povey Brothers business was known as the “Tiffany’s of the Northwest,” and it was the height of fashion and elegance to have their stained glass in your workspace, church, club or home. Examples of original Povey installations include the amazing skylights at Huber’s Café (Portland’s oldest restaurant, established in 1879), at the Pittock Mansion above NW Portland, in the grand Elsinore Theatre in Salem, and in the Oregon Supreme Court Building in Salem.
Popular motifs in the Povey brothers’ work included grape clusters, roses, lilies, birds, and dogwood, which became a signature of the company. Another notable Povey feature was their use of clear glass in the background, which allowed light to easily pass through the windows — an excellent feature for the Northwest’s overcast days.
Our two Povey windows at O’Kanes (shown here) came from an Elks Temple here in Portland. How do we know this? Maybe because of the giant elk headin the left one. The other reason, of course, is the acronym BPOE, which stands for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
The Elks began in New York City in 1868 as a social club (then called the Jolly Corks) as a means to elude laws governing the opening hours of public taverns. Its early members were mostly from theatrical performing troupes. After a member’s death left his wife and children without income, the Jolly Corks took up additional charitable roles. In time, they agreed to change their name to something more serious, something using the name of “a readily identifiable creature of stature, indigenous to America.” They voted 8-7 in favor of the elk above the buffalo. Today, the Elks is a major American fraternal and service order with over a million members.
There is also significance to the hour of 11 p.m., as depicted in the photo above. Deceased or absent lodge members are recalled each evening at 11 p.m., when chimes are rung 11 times and the Lodge Esquire says, “It is the Hour of Recollection.” The Exalted Ruler or a member designated by him then gives the toast – this version is the most common:
“You have heard the tolling of eleven strokes. This is to remind you that with Elks, the hour of eleven has a tender significance. Wherever Elks may roam, whatever their lot in life may be, when this hour falls upon the dial of night, the great heart of Elkdom swells and throbs. It is the golden hour of recollection, the homecoming of those who wander, the mystic roll call of those who will come no more. Living or dead, an Elk is never forgotten, never forsaken. Morning and noon may pass them by, the light of day sink heedlessly into the west. But ere the shadows of midnight shall fall, the chimes of memory will be pealing forth the friendly message: To our absent members.”
After reading that overly dramatic piece, it is no surprise now that the original Elks (a.k.a. Jolly Corks) were simply actors in search of after-hours drinks.
Nonetheless, the next time you find yourself at O’Kanes, nearing the hour of 11 p.m., gaze upon the beautiful Povey windows, and imagine the Elks solemnly intoning this tribute to their fallen brethren.